Teralba Railway Deviation

While looking at Google Earth this weekend I noticed that it was somewhat odd the way the Sydney-Newcastle train line has a big eastward loop just south of Teralba.

Why didn’t the train line just continue north-south in a relatively straight line? Consulting Parrott’s 1893 map revealed that’s exactly what the line used to do. Here’s the map overlaid onto Google Earth, with the present day path of the rail line shown in red.

So why the change, and when did it happen?

A search of Trove revealed that construction of the deviation was commenced around 1901. It was one of a number of re-alignments and deviations between Adamstown and Morisset designed to reduce the grade (steepness) of the track, and thus improve the efficiency of haulage. The Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate reporting on the program of rail deviations on 2 July 1901 stated that …

The grade will be 1 in 80 as against 1 in 40 and 1 in 50 on the present line. It is estimated that this deviation of the line, though a costly matter, involving as it does the expenditure of some thing between £70,000 and £80,000, will enable one engine to do work which it now takes two to do, and thus the expenditure is believed to be justifiable.

Construction of the Teralba deviation was halted in October 1901 because of a legal dispute. The deviation passed over the workings of the Pacific Co-operative Steam Coal Company, and the Railway Commissioner’s had offered £2,000 in compensation for the resumed land. The coal company thought this too little, and put in a counter claim for £25,000 compensation. Construction of the deviation recommenced in early 1902 while the legal arguments about compensation continued. In June 1902 it was reported that “the Teralba section is being pushed forward rapidly, giving employment to from 300 to 400 men”. The construction was reported as completed in April 1903.

However the argument over compensation was not completed. At an arbitration hearing in January 1903 the Railway Commissioners were ordered to pay £18,460 in compensation. The Railway Commissioners thought the award too high, and immediately asked “to have the amount of compensation settled by a jury, under the provisions of the Public Works Act of 1900.” On the other hand the Pacific Co-operative Coal Company thought the award too small, and immediately upped the ante by suing the Railway Commissioners for “£60,000 damages for the deprivation of mining rights.”

After a lengthy court case in March 1903, the jury awarded the coal company £17,609 in damages. On 11 June 1903 the coal company signed a “judgement for the amount of the verdict, with interests and costs.” But two months later in August 1903 the matter was back in the courts, where a ruling was made that the coal company “were not entitled to recover such costs.” To make matters even more complicated (as if they weren’t complicated enough), the Pacific Co-operative Steam Coal Company didn’t own the land they were mining. They leased it from the Perpetual Trustee Company for an annual fee based on the amount of coal extracted. The Perpetual Trustee Company thought that their payments would be reduced due to the resumption of land by the railway, and therefore they launched separate legal action against the Railway Commissioners for payment of compensation.

Convoluted legal proceedings continued for years, going all the way to the Privy Council in London in September 1904, other proceedings to the High Court of Australia in September 1905, and continuing in other courts until at least May 1906. With the massive amount of time spent in the courts and associated legal fees, I suspect the 3km Teralba deviation became the most expense piece of railway construction in NSW at the time.

Lambton/Mayfield Tramway

The first tramline in the city, running from Newcastle to Wallsend opened in 1887. Only two other lines opened in the next decade, but tramway fervour increased when Edward William O’Sullivan became NSW Minister for Public Works in 1899. O’Sullivan was a passionate supporter of public transport. He was the visionary in the construction of the ornate Central Railway Station in Sydney, and instigated many other rail and tram projects in NSW.

In Newcastle by 1901, Merewether, Adamstown and Mayfield had been added to the tram network, and many other suburbs clamoured to be the next tram destination. Lambton residents wanted a tram between their town and Mayfield. However the Mayor of Waratah, N. B. Creer, was highly critical, declaring that the proposed route

“comprises a variety of pitfalls and the land might subside at any time”

and that the income from passengers

“would not pay for grease for the rolling stock”

Creer’s preference was for Waratah to be connected by a line from Hamilton via Georgetown. The Minister agreed, and O’Sullivan promised that construction would start by 1903. However, drought and a downturn in the London money markets dried up funds, and government spending was reined in. O’Sullivan lost office in 1904 and the Waratah via Georgetown tramline was put on hold. The line eventually opened in 1915, the final extension of the tram network constructed in Newcastle.

In 1918, the Lambton to Mayfield route was again advocated, to provide transport for workers in the western parts of the city to the newly opened steelworks. But it was never to be. In the 1920s the rise of motorised bus services led to a decline in tram patronage, and from 1930 tramlines in Newcastle began to close. The last tram service in Newcastle ran on 11 June 1950 on the Waratah line.

In 2019, light rail services return to the city, and the opening of the Newcastle to Wickham line raises the same question asked in 1901, “Where to next?”


The article above was first published in the January 2019 edition of The Local.

Mayfield-Lambton Tramway Proposals 1901. Map by Ken McCarthy, Trolley Wire magazine October 1982. Courtesy of Sydney Tramway Museum Archives.
A tram sits at the intersection of Howe and Morehead Streets, Lambton, where the
proposed route to Mayfield branched off. Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Additional Information

Timeline of tram operations in Newcastle, 1887-2019

Date Tram line Event
19 Jul 1887 Wallsend/Plattsurg Opened
19 Apr 1894 Tighes Hill Opened
19 Apr 1894 Glebe (originally called Merewether line) Opened
13 Aug 1900 Adamstown Opened
11 Jan 1901 Mayfield (extension of Tighes Hill line to Hanbury St) Extended
21 Sep 1903 Merewether (beach) Opened
27 Apr 1907 Racecourse Opened
19 Sep 1910 West Wallsend Opened
11 Jul 1911 Wallsend (Newcastle to Lambton portion) Duplicated
15 Jan 1912 Speers Point Opened
23 Sep 1912 Carrington Opened
July 1914 Maryville (Port Waratah) Opened
20 Jan 1915 Waratah Opened
15 Dec 1923 Mayfield Electrified
27 Jul 1924 Merewether Electrified
2 Nov 1924 Glebe Electrified
2 Feb 1925 Adamstown Electrified
6 Apr 1925 Waratah Electrified
Nov 1925 Racecourse (possibly 11/11/1925?) Electrified
27 Dec 1925 Wallsend Electrified
15 Aug 1926 Carrington Electrified
11 Oct 1926 Port Waratah Electrified
1 Nov 1930 Speers Point Closed
1 Nov 1930 West Wallsend Closed
19 Nov 1938 Carrington Closed
19 Nov 1938 Port Waratah Closed
26 Sep 1948 Mayfield Closed
6 Nov 1949 Wallsend Closed
25 Feb 1950 Glebe Closed
25 Feb 1950 Merewether Closed
16 Apr 1950 Adamstown Closed
Apr 1950 Racecourse Closed
11 Jun 1950 Waratah Closed
17 Feb 2019 Newcastle Beach to Newcastle Interchange (Wickham) Opened
Passengers on the Newcastle Light Rail on the community open day, 17 Feb 2019

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
1 Sep 1900"The land on the suggested Lambton to Waratah route comprises a variety of pitfalls, and where falls have not taken place the land might subside at any time, a great deal of the country being undermined and the coal extracted from near the surface. "
"The Mayor of Waratah contends that a tramway between Waratah and Lambton would not pay for grease for the rolling stock, and suggests that this project might be dropped so as not to prejudice the construction of the Georgetown route, to which the Minister and the Commissioners are said to be favourable."
4 Sep 1900"The construction of a tramline between Waratah and Lambton is not advocated solely with a view of benefiting the residents living in the vicinity of the route, but also for the convenience of the travelling public of the whole district, more especially the people of the large centres of Wallsend and Plattsburg, who are at present unable to reach Hanbury, Tighe's Hill, Mayfield, or the Hunter River by tram unless they proceed via Wickham, which is both a costly and tedious journey, in order to reach those centres of population."
15 Nov 1900
13 Nov 1900
Conference between Lambton Citizens’ Committee and Waratah Council to discuss the competing routes. Lambton argued that the tram was “necessary as a means of conveyance for youths employed at the Soap Works, a number of workmen who travelled at week-ends and holidays to the river to fish.”
14 Jun 1901
13 Jun 1901
Mr G Fischer, the Engineer for Tramway construction, inspects a number of proposed tram routes. There is detailed description of the Lambton/Mayfield route that was subsequently illustrated in the map in Trolley Wire magazine in 1982.
The praises of William O'Sullivan are sung … “Very little doubt exists that a line will be made if Mr. O'Sullivan remains in power. His vigorous policy has already done much good for the district, and his present tramway proposals are held to be an evidence of his sincerity to make Newcastle up-to-date as the capital city of the great northern part of this State.”
15 Mar 1902"New South Wales is shortly to go on to the [London Money] market, but is holding back because of the unsettled condition of the market owing to South African affairs."
19 Mar 1902The Minister for Works writes to Waratah Council stating that the Waratah Broadmeadow tramway extension could be commenced at the end of June next. (June 1903)
20 May 1903"A deputation … interviewed the Minister for Works, Mr. O'Sullivan, to-day, and urged for the early redemption of his promise to construct the extension of the tram from Broadmeadow to Waratah."
The Minister said "he had given promises in good faith, but a man was sometimes the victim of his environment, and so was the State. Since the promises were given they had fallen upon bad times. The drought, the bad money market in London, and other troubles, and the Government had decided to reef-sail in the matter of expenditure."
8 Aug 1905"The residents of Waratah … are waiting patiently for the construction of the branch line from Broadmeadow Junction. The line was surveyed some years ago, and pegs mark the proposed route. "
"When Mr. O'Sullivan was Minister for Works he was taken over the route. He decided then that it was the proper way to take the line, and promised that it should be constructed. However, he went out of office, and the matter has been hung up since. "
19 Jun 1918Lambton Council meeting: "Correspondence was received from J. Estell, intimating that he would assist thecombined councils in urging the Government to construct a tram line from Lambton, via Waratah and Mayfield, to the steel works."
10 Mar 1920Call to convene a conference "for the purpose of taking concerted action towards procuring the construction of a tramway to the Steel Works either from Lambton or New Lambton."
10 Apr 1920"The necessity for constructing a line of tramways to give direct access from the western suburbs to the Steel Works at Port Waratah was affirmed by a conference of municipal representatives held at the Lambton Council Chambers last night."
24 May 1920“The proposal for the construction of a tramline from Lambton to the steel works was mentioned by the Mayor ... Mr. Phillips (District Superintendent of Tramways), in reply, said that he could see very little hope of any new lines being constructed in the Newcastle district until electrification was brought about.”
21 Oct 1930
1 Nov 1930
Speers Point and West Wallsend tram services cease. They had been operating at a loss of £16,229 per annum.
12 Jun 1950
11 Jun 1950
Last tram service in Newcastle, on the Waratah line.

Update to historical real estate maps index

I’ve just updated my visual index to historical real estate maps by adding maps from Creer and Berkeley, catalogued by the National Library of Australia. There were 130 items that were not in the University of Newcastle Flickr archive.

The two most interesting discoveries I made while adding the maps were

The A.H.P.P and C. Society

While researching Lambton history I came across a few references to the A.H.P.P. and C. Society holding annual shows, exhibiting produce, chickens, flowers etc. 

I had a good guess about what ” A.H.P.P. and C.” might stand for, but in the newspaper report of their first show in December 1889 I confirmed that it stands for “Agricultural, Horticultural, Poultry, Pigeon, and Canary” Society.

Annual Show reports

The first Commercial Hotel

My December article for The Local is out, this month on the Commercial Hotel/Snake Gully Hotel/Hotel Amos/Bar 121, on the south west corner of Elder and Grainger Streets Lambton. This soon to be demolished building was erected in 1888, but in researching the article I discovered there was an earlier and different Commercial Hotel in the period 1879-1882, on the north side of Elder St.

The references to it were fairly scant, and I had little hope of determining where it was located. But last weekend, thanks to an 1885 advertisement of sale of an oddly shaped land allotment, and the NSW Globe KML, I’m reasonably confident that the first Commercial Hotel was at 102-104 Elder St, where Raine & Horne Real Estate was formerly located, and Williams Artisan Bread & Espresso is currently located.

102 and 104 Elder St Lambton. Site of the first Commercial Hotel in Lambton.

Lambton Memorial Baby Health Centre

On page 14 of the Weekender section of today’s Newcastle Herald, there is an article about the Lambton Park Tea Rooms (situated at the north west corner of Lambton Park) in which it is stated …

“Originally built in 1935 as a war widows refuge, the building became the Lambton Memorial Baby Health Clinic in the ’70s.”

I don’t know where this ‘information’ came from, but unfortunately it is wrong, wrong, and wrong.

  • It wasn’t built in 1935
  • It was never a war widows refuge
  • It was always a Baby Health Clinic, from the time it was constructed in 1947.

Aerial photography from 1944 shows the site of the former baby health centre to be empty.

Lambton Park, 1944

A quick search of Trove shows that baby health centre was …

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), Monday 1 September 1947, page 4
Lambton Memorial Baby Health Centre, now the Lambton Park Tea Rooms. December 2018.
The bronze memorial plaques on the entrance gate pillars.
Memorial plaque on the front porch wall.

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
27 Oct 1944"Lambton, committee of National Fitness has made preliminary plans for a baby health centre to be built by voluntary labour. A sub-committee last night decided to ask Greater Newcastle Council to have set apart portion of Lambton Park for the building."
3 May 1945"The sub-committee of Lambton National Fitness Committee handling arrangements for the building of a baby health centre adopted building plans submitted by Ald. T. Armstrong. It was decided to name the proposed centre the Lambton Memorial Baby Health Centre."
18 Jan 1946"Ald. T. Armstrong, at Lambton National Fitness annual meeting last night exhibited plans tor the Lambton baby health centre, for which Greater Newcastle Council had decided to call tenders."
28 Feb 1946"Greater Newcastle Council last night adopted a recommendation from the Finance Committee for erection of a baby health centre at Lambton."
31 May 1946"Except for the brick ornamental fence, Greater Newcastle Council's proposal for a baby health centre at Lambton has been approved by the Minister for Labour and Industry (Mr. Hamilton Knight.)"
28 Mar 1947"The Baby Health Centre now being erected on Lambton Park, facing Elder-street, is almost completed."
"The centre will serve as a memorial to the men of Lambton and surrounding districts who served during the war."
1 Sep 1947"Lambton Memorial Baby Health Centre, nearing completion in Lambton Park. It will be one of the most modern centres in New South Wales. The equipped building will cost about £3000. The Health Department is bearing half the cost. The remainder will be paid by Greater Newcastle, helped by a residents' contribution of £500."
27 Nov 1947
29 Nov 1947
"The Lord Mayor (Ald. Quinlan) will open Lambton Memorial Baby Health Centre on Saturday, at 3 p.m."
"Three bronze tablets-two memorial tablets for the entrance gates, and a dedication tablet for the front of the building - were bought by the committee."

Commercial Hotel

The intersection of Elder and Grainger streets was at one time the hotel hub of Lambton, with three of its four corners hosting a licenced establishment. In 1865 John Stoker opened the Gold Miners’ Arms on the north east corner, and in 1868 Michael Doyle opened the Rose, Thistle & Shamrock Inn on the south east corner.

In 1888 the Commercial Hotel opened on the south west corner in a newly erected building. The name was familiar to locals as there had been a previous but unrelated hotel of the same name on the northern side of Elder St for a brief period around 1880. The new Commercial Hotel building was commissioned by Mr G Buckley, designed by local architects Bennett and Yeomans, and constructed by Mr J Frogley. The newspaper at the time reported that

“The building is of brick, containing fifteen rooms, with large cellar 20 x 16, bathroom and water tank, wardrobe, large yard, stables and out-offices. The main building contains a large hall, used by the Masonic Order, 36 x 18, with ante-room attached; billiard-room, 26 x 26, high and lofty, fitted with fire-place, large-sized table, and eleven ventilators, making it cosy in winter and cool in the summer.”

The first publican was Mr W Brown, followed by John Sample in 1889. Another notable publican was George Smith, who held the license of the Commercial Hotel from 1901 to 1912, before becoming publican of the Northumberland Hotel at the other end of Elder St from 1913 to 1920.

After 84 years of trading as the Commercial Hotel, in 1972 it was renamed the Snake Gully Hotel. In 1979 it became the Hotel Amos, then reverted to Snake Gully Hotel in 1982. In 2002 it was renamed Bar 121, and then renamed to Snake Gully Hotel again in 2016.  The hotel closed in August 2018 bringing to an end over 150 years of continuous hotel operations at the Elder/Grainger St intersection.


The article above was first published in the December 2018 edition of The Local.

John Sample’s Commercial Hotel 1893. Photograph by Ralph Snowball. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.
The Snake Gully Hotel in July 2018

The First “Commercial Hotel” in Lambton

Several books, including one I collaborated on (Lambton, A nineteenth century mining town, 2nd edition) state that the Commercial Hotel on the south west corner of Elder/Grainger Streets dates from 1880. This is incorrect. While researching this article I discovered that the Commercial Hotel of 1880 was a different hotel, somewhere on the north side of Elder St. The Commercial Hotel that opened in 1888 on the southern side of Elder St was described at the time as a newly erected hotel.

Mr R Ward operated the first Commercial Hotel until 1882, when he advertised the sale of the property.

Note that the location is described as being …

“erected upon a quarter of an acre of land, fronting Elder-street, and running through to De-Vitre-street, thus having two frontages to the principal streets.”

In August 1882 the Newcastle Morning Herald reported that …

“Messrs. W. Lightfoot and Son have removed to Lambton, and commenced business in the premises in Elder-street, lately known as the Commercial Hotel, as grocers, drapers, ironmongers, dealers in colonial produce, etc.”

A few years later, in January 1885, the property was again advertised for sale, split into two allotments.

The first allotment is described as having a frontage to Elder St of 33 feet. Note however that the second allotment has a frontage to Elder St of 18 feet but a frontage to De Vitre St of 35 feet. The difference in frontages can only occur if the block is either wedge shaped, or has an irregular shape. Loading up lot boundaries from the NSW Globe KML (from NSW Governement Spatial Services) into Google Earth shows that there are no wedge shaped blocks on the north side of Elder St, but there is an irregular set of lots where

  • the total area is 0.25 acres (matching the area described in the 1882 sale)
  • the western lot has a frontage to Elder St of 33 feet, and the eastern lot a frontage of 18 feet (matching the details of the 1885 sale)

There are no other lots that match the details of the 1882 and 1885 sale advertisements, so I am reasonably confident that this is where the first Commercial Hotel in Lambton was situated. The site is at address 102-104 Elder St, where Raine & Horne Real Estate was formerly located, and Williams Artisan Bread & Espresso is currently located.

102 and 104 Elder St Lambton. Site of the first Commercial Hotel in Lambton.

Additional Information

The University of Newcastle Cultural Collections has another Ralph Snowball photograph of the Commercial Hotel, captioned “George Smith’s Commercial Hotel, Lambton NSW, 11 August 1891”. The date cannot be right as George Smith did not become licensee of the Commercial Hotel until late 1900 or early 1901.

George Smith’s Commercial Hotel, Lambton NSW. University of Newcastle, Cultural Collections.

Licensees (to 1921)

Licensees after 1921 (incomplete list)

Name changes

The Australian National University archives has a photograph of a card from Tooth and Company Limited that shows two of the hotel’s name changes in the 1970’s.

  • Changed from “Commercial Hotel” to “Snake Gully”, 8/6/1972
  • Changed from “Snake Gully” to “Hotel Amos”, 1/11/1979

Newspaper articles

Article Date Event DateNotes
24 Jun 1868Advertisement for Michael Doyle's "Rose, Thistle, & Shamrock Inn" at Lambton.
21 Aug 1879"Mr. Henry Laurance, the oculist optician ... will be at the Commercial Hotel, Lambton, on Thursday next."
19 Nov 1880"Richard Ward applied for the transfer of his license of the Marquis of Lorne Hotel, Dixon street, to a house in Elder-street." The request was refused by the bench. Was the house in Elder St the Commercial Hotel which R Ward occupied in 1882?
6 Apr 1882Advertisement for the sale of Mr R Ward's Commercial Hotel. It is described as being on a quarter acre block between Elder and De-Vitre street in Lambton.
8 Aug 1882"Messrs. W. Lightfoot and Son have removed to Lambton, and commenced business in the premises in Elder-street, lately known as the Commercial Hotel, as grocers, drapers, ironmongers, dealers in colonial produce, etc."
17 Jan 1885FOR SALE - "That splendid BUSINESS PREMISES situate in the best part of Elder-street, Lambton, and occupied at present by W. Lightfoot and Sons as a Drapery establishment, consisting of two good shops, with a seven-roomed dwelling, kitchen, out buildings, and two underground tanks. The land has a frontage to Elder-street of 33 feet, by a depth running back to De Vitre street."
2 Nov 1888"The new hotel built to the order of Mr. G. Buckley, situate at the junction of Elder and Grainger streets, is now complete." "Mr. Brown has spared no pains in tastefully furnishing every room, so that the Commercial Hotel, with its genial host and sanitary surroundings, can be safely recommended as ranking amongst the first-class hotels of the district."
7 Nov 1888
5 Nov 1888
Mr. W. Brown, the host of the new Commercial Hotel, celebrated the opening of the house by inviting a few friends to partake of a neat "spread" on Monday night.
11 Jul 1889At the Waratah Licensing Court, the licence of the Commercial Hotel was transferred to John Sample, despite objections of the police.
18 Jan 1921At the license renewal hearing, the Commercial Hotel is described as "a fairly new brick building of two storeys" with "nine bedrooms, six of which were available to the public." The licensee at the time was Stephen Thomas Shipley, and the owner was Anne Jane Buckley.